Cebu News

Magna carta for waste workers pushed

Caecent No-ot Magsumbol - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The newly established Philippine National Waste Workers Alliance (PNWWA) composed of different organizations nationwide calls for just compensation, benefits and protection for waste workers in the country.

“We are calling for, among others, just compensation and social benefits and protection because we provide essential services to society,” said PNWWA founding president Aloja Santos.

Santos, who is also the president of the Dumaguete Women Waste Workers Association (DWWWA), emphasized that waste workers also deserve the benefit and protection like other workers.

“We are as deserving of such benefits and protection as any other worker, perhaps even more so. Without us, society will not function efficiently," added Santos.

Other members of PNWA also cry for freedom against pollution, poverty and a rubbish system. With this, PNWWA urges lawmakers to enact a Magna Carta for Waste Workers to secure vital legislative protection.

This significant move seeks to recognize the indispensable work of waste workers and waste pickers and address the social and economic challenges they face daily.

PNWWA was established during the national consultation with waste workers organized by Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) with the support of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific last February of this year.

PNWWA is a coalition of 12 waste worker organizations representing over a thousand members across the archipelago. Their unified voice underscores the need for legislative action to improve the working conditions and safeguard the rights of waste workers and waste pickers nationwide.

PNWWA’s 10 priority demands that are expected to be on the Magna Carta---enforcement of labor standards, hazard pay, health insurance and services, humane and safe working conditions, job security, just compensation, meaningful participation in policy spaces, right to organize, social benefits and protection and training.

Following the consultation, a Magna Carta for Waste Workers was drafted and PNWWA presented it to Senator Loren Legarda.

As the author and principal sponsor of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Senator Legarda with her legal team immediately studied the proposed legislation and filed the bill on April 17, 2024, which is now pending in the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

"I acknowledge the validity of the demands of the waste workers — their call for fair treatment, job security, and access to essential services resonates deeply with the principles of justice and equity. These are valid concerns that warrant attention and action, and I am committed to working collaboratively in finding solutions that ensure a just transition for all,” said Senator Legarda in a statement.

Atty. Christopher John C. Menguito, Managing Trustee of the Philippine Earth Justice Center, on the other hand explained the importance of integrating these solutions into the law through magna carta.

“The purpose of the law is to make the lives of the people better," Menguito said.

As the world faces multiple environmental crises and ecological collapse, the contribution of waste workers and waste pickers as frontliners in combating waste pollution is needed now more than ever.

Data shared by GAIA Asia Pacific shows that methane, a potent greenhouse gas accounts for about 30% of the rise in global temperature since pre-industrial times.

In 2021, anthropogenic waste has also been identified as among the major sources of methane emissions.

Solid waste generation in the country is high that waste workers can ensure a sustainable and waste-free future; from composting to diverting reusable materials away from landfills, they play a vital part in waste management and recycling, offering practical and cost-effective solutions to address both waste and climate issues.

“This moment underscores the importance of recognizing waste workers and waste pickers as frontline environmental defenders. We must prioritize their rights and ensure they have full labor protections under the law. This commitment sets the foundation for collaborative advocacy, fostering a truly inclusive and just transition,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chair of Mother Earth Foundation.

“The Magna Carta for Waste Workers is a powerful tool in fostering significant change not only in the Philippines but for the whole Southeast Asian region. Waste workers and waste pickers are claiming their rights, making their voices heard and their presence felt. Their desire and determination to be part of the process are crucial in the shift towards a sustainable waste management system. Together, we are forging a future where we do not leave anyone behind,” Froilan Grate, Regional Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific added. (CEBU NEWS)

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